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 Post subject: from current journals as of 2017 06 14
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Sky and Telescope July 2017
News Notes
New take on sounds
For years people have claimed to here various noises – usually described as whistles, pops, and pings – from bright meteors. Astronomers have dismissed such claims as imaginary, noting that the observers claim the sound is heard at the same time as the meteor flash is seen – but the meteor is usually at least 100 km up when the flash occurs, the atmosphere is too thin to transmit sound up there, and any sound would arrive long after the flash. (I note a really big meteor can produce a sonic boom, but if you hear that you’re probably too close). However a team from Sandia National Lab notes that there’s a thing called the photoacoustic effect, where a bright flash of light can cause pressure oscillations in dielectric material – like clothes or hair. They estimate a -12Mag fireball could create photoacoustic sound as about 25 decibels – just barely hearable.
Cosmic Relief
Life outside the habitable zone
The ‘habitable zone” is that space around a star where a planet can maintain liquid water (it being assumed that liquid water is necessary for the evolution of life). Planetary climate modelers note, however, that just because a planet isn’t in the habitable zone now doesn’t mean it always was or always will be. In particular, climate models for Venus suggest it may have had liquid water oceans for more than a billion years before they evaporated from runaway greenhouse effect – and a billion years is easily long enough to evolve life. It’s suggested the term “metahabitable”, analogous to “metastable” in chemistry and mineralogy, be used to describe such planets.
A technology past its limit
The lesson of the great Paris telescope
Astronomy trivia geeks know that the largest refracting telescope is the 40-inch at Yerkes Observatory in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. However, a larger one was built – the 49-inch (1.25 M) for the 1900 Paris exhibition. At the time most astronomers preferred refractors to reflectors; it was easier to polish the spherical surfaces of a refractor lens than the parabolic one of a mirror, and even though silvered glass had just replaced speculum metal as a mirror material, mirrors were still subject to tarnishing and had to be removed for repolishing. Both reflectors and refractors were subject to mounting problems; the 72-inch reflector at Parsontown, Ireland, was abandoned because it was just too difficult to use. A refractor of the time needed an extremely long focal length to minimize chromatic aberration, which contributed to the mounting difficulty. (Now, short focus refractors can be built by using a third lens in the objective – sometimes made of an exotic material like calcium fluoride.) The solution adopted for the Paris telescope was to mount the telescope horizontally and direct light into it with a siderostat – a flat mirror that was equatorially mounted. The telescope actually had two objectives – four lenses in all – that were interchangeable, one for photography corrected for blue wavelengths and one for visual observation corrected for yellow. Given that it was in an exhibition building in the middle of brightly lit and smoky Paris, the telescope worked surprisingly well, but no observatory wanted it when the exhibition was over, and the owners filed for bankruptcy in 1909. The photographic objective turned up in a dusty packing crate in the basement of the Paris Observatory in 2002; nobody knows what happened to the visual objective.

GSA Today June 2017
Increasing undergraduate interest to learn geoscience with GPS-based Augmented Reality filed tripos on students’ own smartphones
This probably works, but it looks really odd. In the example given, the instructors set up a walking course on campus; as the students walk the course, their smartphones display what they would see in if they were actually at the Grand Canyon. Students report satisfaction with the program, and it’s a lot cheaper than an actual field trip, but it looks strange to see students wandering around the typical campus quadrangle while examining (for example) Eminence Fault on their phones.

Natural History June 2017
Naturalist at Large
Cooperative undertaking
Bernd Heinrich writes a regular column for Natural History; Heinrich is an old-fashioned naturalist, although in this particular article he does an experiment. His topic is carrion and the insects attracted to it. He notes that medium-size carcasses – woodchucks, porcupines, raccoons – generally get taken over by blowflies (although now and then flesh flies, which have the advantage of giving live birth to their maggots rather than having to wait for eggs to hatch, get the prize). However, with smaller dead bodies – songbirds, field mice – it’s usually the sexton beetles that win. Heinrich notes that sexton beetles generally have a crop of mites living on them; the mites don’t bother the beetles, but prey on fly eggs and maggots, jumping off as soon as a beetle lands on a carcasses and giving the beetles a chance to bury the body before the flies reduce it to a pile of hair and bone. Heinrich was curious how a mated pair of beetles could bury a dead mouse 200 times their body weight, so he constructed a beetle observatory; a window supported horizontally far enough off the ground such that he could lie under it, then covered with a layer of dirt and a suitable corpse. The beetles lie on their backs under the body and “walk” it with their legs until they get to a suitable place for burial; once their they dig a grave and have a safe place for the grubs to grow up free of other carrion eaters.

Earth May-June 2017
Comment
Kitchen Counter Geology: Bringing Rock Identification to a New Audience
The author discusses her encounter with the Natural Stone Institute, which is the trade group for the decorative stone industry. She was inspired to contact the NSI after a kitchen remodeler solemnly assured her that a slab of slate on display in a showroom was “black granite”. In most cases, she comments, it doesn’t make that much difference if a kitchen counter is labeled as “granite” but is actually gneiss or gabbro or tonalite or granulite; however sometimes it does, as when she discovered marble labeled as “soft quartzite” – not the thing for a kitchen countertop, especially if you spill vinegar on it. Thus she attended the NSI trade show in Las Vegas with a suitcase full of hand samples – which took some explaining to the TSA – and held a rock identification lab, which got rave responses from attendees.
News
Scientists crack the secret of dinosaur incubation times
In mammals and alligators (and presumably other reptiles) embryonic teeth form from a hard shell of enamel that fills with liquid dentine each day; the dentine hardens mineralizes at night. Each daily event leaves a growth line, called a van Ebner line. The lines stop forming when the embryonic tooth is completely full. Paleontologists compared van Ebner lines in alligators and fossil dinosaur embryos to determine egg incubation times; it turns out these were surprisingly long in dinosaurs, ranging from 83 to 171 days, depending on species studied. These are about twice as long as expected if dinosaur eggs had incubation times similar to birds (adjusting for egg size). This in turn suggests that dinosaurs must have spent considerable time on caring for the nest.

Nature 18 May 2017
This Week
Huffing and puffing
Nature comes out in favor of vaping, sort of. The idea is that vaping is almost certainly safer than smoking and therefore switching from smoking to vaping is a good thing for public health. It’s conceded that nobody is sure how much safer vaping is, and it also isn’t clear if people who would never take up smoking might decide to vape. Nature notes that the US is the biggest market for vaping, and that the regulatory situation is not particularly logical; the US originally had looser regulations than European countries but is now tending toward stricter ones. Of particular interest toNature is the FDA proposal to require e-cigarette manufacturers to prove their products benefit public health – and the proposal can be interpreted to require this for every brand and every flavor. It’s estimated the “public health benefit” proof will cost about %450K, which Nature notes will drive small manufactures out and put the e-cigarette industry firmly in the hands of the big tobacco companies.
World View
Rescue old data before it’s too late
I believe I joked before on how my dissertation research is safely archived on reel-to-reel tape. Author Elizabeth Griffin, a Canadian astronomer, notes the problem of obsolete computer records but once to go back even further – to paper data (such as 19th century ships’ logs) and glass plate astronomical photographs. She noted something that had never occurred to me – objective prism star photographs are not only valuable for detecting stellar spectra changes; they can also be used to track changes in the Earth’s atmospheric composition.
Seven Days
Ebola outbreak
In the Democratic Republic of Congo; nine cases so far
India’s GM crops
Mustard, grown mostly for oil. Developed locally; no Monsatan involvement. Being blocked by the usual people. The note doesn’t say what the GM modification does.
Dubious ban
The Turkish government blocked access to Wikipedia on 29 April, saying the site was promoting terrorism. The Turkish Supreme Court has declared the ban unconstitutional.
News in focus
China cracks down on fake drug trials
Had a note about this before but this is a longer article. The CFDA had come down on fraudulent drugs a few years back, but that was mostly for mislabeled or counterfeit drugs; this policy (which is described as a “reinterpretation” of the code, not a new regulation) extends that to falsified clinical trials. The problem is apparently pretty severe; after warning drug manufacturers that submitting falsified drug test data was subject to criminal prosecution (up to the death penalty, if a drug approved on the basis of falsified data caused a death), 80% of pending applications were withdrawn and 25% of the remainder were rejected for authenticity problems. Commenters note it’s not clear who will be prosecuted; i.e., who is the “submitter” of falsified data. It’s also suggested that the Chinese government will clarify this by making an example of somebody.
Bronze age “Beaker Folk” invaded Britain
If you were reading archaeology texts back in the ‘50s and ‘60s, you often came across the “Beaker People”. At the time, if archaeology disclosed some change in material culture, it was often attributed to invasion; thus the proliferation of a particular cup-sized pot shaped like an inverted bell in Bronze Age European sites was posited as the result of an invasion by “Beaker People”. Further research falsified the invasion theory – not only for the Beaker People but for other putative invasions; we joked here that North American archaeologist might conclude that the “Earthenware Jug People” were replaced by an invasion of the “Glass Bottle People”, who were in turn displaced by the “Steel Can People” that were forced out by the “Aluminum Can People” before the final triumph of the “Polyethylene Terephthalate Bottle People”. Buried amongst that, though, is the observation that the “Earthenware Jug People” really did displace an earlier culture by invasion; and so it seems that the Beaker People theory has some legs after all. The advent of DNA studies of human remains show no consistent relation among bell-beaker users on continental Europe; i.e. the data fits a model where the beakers spread rather than the people. But in Britain, there really is a change in the genetic makeup of the population when the beakers arrive; the beaker users are most closely related to contemporary people from the Netherlands and were responsible for a “90% shift” in the genetic makeup of the British population.
Engineered virus in line to battle citrus disease
The Asian citrus physllid is a true bug (hemipteran) related to aphids and scale insects. It spreads a bacterium (Candidatus liberibacter) which in turn causes “citrus greening” or huanglongbing. The disease makes the fruit bitter and unmarketable. A few varieties of mandarin oranges are partially immune; otherwise the only recourse is to destroy the affected trees. Various approaches genetic engineering of the trees to be resistant using a spinach gene, but growers are concerned that consumers will not accept genetically modified fruit. Another approach is genetic engineering the psyllids (presumably using “gene drive”, although the article doesn’t day) to be unable to transmit the bacterium (which apparently can be done by switching off a single gene) and genetically engineering a virus to insert the spinach gene (the virus infects citrus trees, but is apparently harmless). The idea is growers can argue that there is no genetic modification to the fruit itself. One expects Greendeath activists dressed as oranges, although a cursory Google search didn’t disclose any Greendeath comments on “citrus greening” or “huanglongbing”. A citrus grower commented “We needed a solution ten years ago”.
News and views
Occasional errors can benefit coordination
Letter
Locally noisy autonomous agents improve global human coordination in network experiments
The experiment involved a game with players trying to arrange colored symbols on a grid; the goal was to arrange the grid so each node was a different color from its neighbors; the players could only see the and change their own node color and those of their neighbors but the goal was to solve the problem across the entire grid and players received a financial award based on how long it took to do this. When all the players were human, they would often solve local coordination at the expense of a global solution; however, by introducing “noise” into the system in the form of software that would play a node and sometimes randomly change it to a “wrong” color, the global coordination problem was solved faster. The optimum amount of “noise” seemed to be around a 10% error rate. Note and paper.
Letter
Continental crust formation on early Earth controlled by intrusive magmatism
This seems to be a hot (sorry) research topic, as a number of papers have turned up in both the geological and general science literature. The idea is what was going on before plate tectonics got started. The earliest continental crust is supposedly trondhjemite-tonalite-granulite (TTG), and the question is did it get there by extrusion (volcanism) or intrusion (emplacement at depth with the cover later worn off). The authors model the proposals and conclude that the intrusive model (aka “Plutonic squishy lid tectonics”) fits the data better; the extrusive model can’t produce the geothermal gradients found in extant TTG rocks.

Nature 4 May 2017
Seven Days
Legal concerns
The European Union stated Hungary’s new Higher Education Law is incompatible with market freedom and academic freedom. The law prevents universities from operating in Hungary unless they have a campus in their home country. The law is apparently explicitly aimed at the Central European University, funded by George Soros, although the Hungarian Prime Minister denied this.
Preventative arrest
Italian police arrested Davide Vannoni. Vannoni had been convicted of administering unproven stem cell treatments; once of the conditions of his plea bargain was that he cease doing so anywhere, including outside Italy. Wiretaps suggested he was seeking foreign locations, violating the plea bargain agreement.
News in focus
Researchers frustrated by Italian misconduct probe
We have an earlier thread about this. Alfredo Fusco is a leading Italian cancer researcher; five years ago he was accused of manipulating data: specifically cutting and pasting published images of gel electrophoresis in “dozens” of papers. Data manipulation is not criminal by itself in Italy; however it would be fraud if it were used to obtain funding. Other Italian researchers are impatient with the police, who haven’t brought any charges yet.
Comment
Antibiotic resistance has a language problem
We had a thread before about misunderstanding the term “antibiotic resistance”; some people that it meant that they would become “resistant to antibiotics”, not bacteria, and therefor would not take a full dose or continue for a full treatment period lest they become “antibiotic resistant”. This article notes a similar problem; scientific publications interchangeably use the terms “antibiotic resistance” and “antimicrobial resistance”. The public knowledge that antibiotic resistance is a bad thing, and that antibiotics were formerly added to animal feed simply as growth promoters and not to treat specific conditions, has lead to attempts to ban “antimicrobials” in food production, which could prevent the use of substances that have nothing to do antibiotics – like disinfectants.

Geology May 2017
A Laurentian record of the earliest fossil eukaryotes
“Laurentia” is the North American Craton, basically North American east of the Rockies. At various times in Earth history, it’s been drifting around the crust more or less as a unit, gradually picking up bits and pieces of continental crust and margining and rifting from other continents. (the current North American Plate includes part of western Siberia and bits of Japan on the west plus tiny chunks of Scotland, Ireland and Norway on the east). This article discusses microfossils from the Belt Supergroup in Montana, which requires a little explanation too: a “formation” is a rock unit that can be mapped in three dimensions; it doesn’t have to be the same lithology – it could be all shale, like the Pierre Shale, or interbedded sandstone, siltstone, and claystone, like the Denver Formation – but it must be consistently recognizable. A number of formations that consistently appear together are a “group”; a number of groups that consistently appear together are a “supergroup”. Hence the Belt Supergroup, named after the Belt Mountains of Montana and British Columbia. Anyway the Belt Supergroup is sedimentary and metasedimentary rock and appears to represent a narrow sea – or even a lake – that formed between Laurentia and some other continent (the candidates for the other continent are Siberia, Australia, and Antarctica). The Belt Supergroup is Proterozoic, specifically Mesoproterozoic, more specifically early Mesoproterozoic, from around 1600 to 1450 Mya. The researchers have collected unambiguous microfossils from the Greyson Formation (part of the Belt Supergroup) near White Sullphur Springs, Montana (they give GPS coordinates in case you want to go and get your own; you’ll need to dissolve the shale in hydrofluoric acid, which I advise being really careful with) that they argue fairly convincing – are eukaryotes, and thus the oldest eukaryotes from Laurentia. The eurkaryote classification si based on the complex cell walls visible in the little guys; some of them have little processes and such protruding from them. Interestingly enough, some of the microfossils are also known from Mesoproterozoic rock in China and confined to a fairly narrow age range (by Proterozoic standards) and thus could be used for biostratigraphic correlation.
Gypsum devils in Chile: Movement of largest natural grains by wind?
The author documents part of the Chilean desert where evaporating pools produce gypsum crystals and a funneling effect of surrounding mountains produces whirlwinds. These become strong enough to pick up and move crystals up to 27mm long as far as 5 km. If been inside a “dust devil” once; the experience was so astonishing that I opened my mouth in amazement. This was a bad idea. I can imagine a “gypsum devil” spinning sharp crystals around would be even more unpleasant. It’s noted that the phenomena might explain certain Paleozoic breccias.
Ina pit crater on the Moon: Extrusion of waning-stage lava lake magmatic foam results in extremely young crater retention ages
Ina crater is a summit crater on a shield volcano, on the Moon. The crater floor shows a peculiar, hummocky topography that’s interpreted as the result of a cooled lava lake. There are very few smaller, impact craters on the Ina feature, leading to suggestions that it is extremely young – for the Moon – within the last 100 My, or even the last 10My, very recent for lunar volcanism. While the authors concede it is a volcanic rather than an impact feature, they note that lunar condutions – low gravity and eruption into a vacuum – would cause the late stages of a lava lake to form as sort of foam. This would tend to absorb subsequent meteorite impacts; plus the foam would tend to collapse under the influence of nearby moonquakes (perhaps resulting from impact) and fill in features. Thus the Ina crater is probably not young, but around 3.5 G years old.

Natural History May 2017
Pitcher Plants Shape Up
Interesting; I had assumed pitcher plants were all insectivores, but it turns out that some species grow embedded in the soil and get nourishment from leaf litter and other detritus that blow into the pitcher, while another is how to s species of bat and processes bat effluvia; getting insects second hand, perhaps.
Gynandromorphism
We had a series of threads on human gender; there are similar issues in the animal kingdom. The article provides photographs of a number of animals that are bilateral gynandromorphs; one half of the body id male and the other half female, easy to see in organisms with color differences between the genders. Examples provided are several butterflies, a chicken, a zebra finch, a cardinal, a lobster and a stick insect.

Science 28 April 2017
News in depth
Claim of very early humans in Americas shocks researchers
Comment on an Nature article claiming 130Kya human presence in California. Commenters are skeptical but not fully dismissive.
News features
Vaccine wars
Part of a theme issue on vaccine resistance. It’s noted that scare stories – for example, circulating children’s author Roald Dahl’s letter on losing his 7-year-old daughter to measles encephalitis, one year before measles vaccine was licensed – tend to be counterproductive; they raise parent’s general anxiety levels and make them more, rather than less, reluctant to vaccinate. There’s a general human quirk called “omission bias”; people feel that a bad outcome caused through action is worse than one caused by inaction, regardless of the chances of bad outcome. It is noted that the “Dahl Strategy” does help with parents who out avoiding vaccination out of convenience rather than concerns on vaccine safety.
Vaccines on trial
An interesting take on things; the article profiles Leah Durant, a vaccine injury lawyer. The US has a vaccine court, established in 1988, to handle “no fault” lawsuits over vaccines. It’s actually possible to have a “vaccine injury”; not in the bogus sense used by the antivax delusionals, but from an improperly administered vaccine, or from allergy to a vaccine component, or from just bad luck. Durant is an interesting case; she received a tetanus vaccine that permanently injured her shoulder; the needle was too long and penetrated the shoulder joint (Durant is pro-vaccine herself, saying if she had children she would have them vaccinated). The Vaccine Court compensates about one patient for every million vaccine doses; despite receiving numerous claims, it has never awarded compensation for autism. The article notes shoulder injuries are “by far the commonest” in vaccine cases, but doesn’t provide numbers; the Vaccine Court has just added “shoulder injury related to vaccine administration” to the list of conditions that do not require proof of causation for compensation. The Vaccine Court does not use the jury system; instead there are eight “special masters” that review cases. The maximum award is $250K.
Insights
Documenting decline in U.S. economic mobility
Research article
The fading American dream: Trends in absolute income mobility since 1940
It’s claimed that 92% of children born in 1940 earned more than their parents, while only 50% of children born in 1980 do. The research used IRS data for recent cohorts and “plausible, empirically based assumptions” for older cohorts. Perhaps. The solutions suggested are raising the minimum wage, strengthening worker bargaining power, enforcing antidiscrimination laws, preventing anticompetitive employer practices, subsidized day care, “employer-side wage subsidies for lower income workers”, and progressive tax and transfer policies. Sounds familiar. Note and technical paper.

Nature 20 April 2017
This Week
Keeping ahead
Researchers claim exercise is socially contagious. The advent of wearable timing devices linked with social media allows runners to compete with their friends. The studies of 1 million runners over five years showed runners are mainly not running for health, but to keep ahead of their friends in total mileage; however, while male runners compete with both male and female friends, female runners only compete with other females.
Fake drug laws
The Chinese government has tightened laws against fake drugs, including fake clinical trials. Punishment can include the death penalty, if fraudulent drugs or clinical trials caused the death of a patient. In 2007, Zheng Xiaoyu, the former head of the Chinese equivalent of the FDA, was executed for corruption, so they apparently take this sort of thing seriously.
News in Focus
Unravelling a knotty problem
Researchers at UC Berkeley, studied the way knots untied in runner’s shoelaces; both back and forth motion and impact are necessary, and once loose knots untied quickly. The research is claimed to help understand how deep-sea cables become tangled and allow animators to render human hair more accurately.

Geology April 2017
A previously unrecognized high-temperature impactite from the Steen River impact structure, Alberta, Canada
I’ve always liked impact structures; what’s not to like about big rocks from space obliterating things? At any rate the Steen River impact structure (age disputed, but probably Cretaceous) has about 128m of impact melt (found in drill cores; the structure isn’t exposed at the surface). The “impactite” is a mix of shocked clasts in a melt matrix; the target rock was apparently a mix of carbonates and clastics. One of the unusual minerals found is magnesioferrite (MgFe₂O₄). Magnesioferrite is also found in the K-Pg boundary clay; the authors suggest it might be a marker for impacts in carbonate-rich rocks.
Atmospheric K-feldspar as a potential climate modulating in geological time
The author draws on other studies that show K-feldspar dust particles are extremely good ice nucleating agents (“orders of magnitude” better than other nucleating agents) and tries to estimate the atmospheric flux over geological time. Since K-feldspar is associated with granitic rock, and soils derived from granitic rock, the idea is to figure out how much granite was exposed at the surface at any given time; the conclusion is the amount has been gradually increasing from about 3 Gya or so. The author (Matthew Pankhurst at the University of Leeds) concedes that there are a lot of unknowns, starting with why K-feldspar is so effective on ice nucleation and what effect better ice nucleation actual has on climate. Interesting, though.

Smithsonian April 2017
Unmasking the Mad Bomber
From 1940 to 1956, a person using the signature “F.P.” planted bombs in New York City; 32 bombs in public spaces – subway stations, libraries, theaters. No one had been killed bt 15 people were injured; investigators figured it was a matter of time before fatalities. The NYPD was extremely frustrated, and finally turned to James Brussel, a criminal psychiatrist at the New York Department of Mental Hygiene. Brussel originally declined, citing his workload and saying “I don’t understand what you expect me to do”. The detective captain emptied a satchel full of evidence on Brussels desk; Brussel poked through it for a while, sat in thought for a long time, then came up with a description: F.P. was a classic paranoiud schizophrenic, convinced that others were plotting against him and holding a grudge. He was probably in his mid to late 40s, neither fat nor skinny, very neat and meticulous, clean-shaven, of Slavic descent, never married, living in the northern New York suburbs or Connecticut with an elderly female relative. And that when arrested he would be wearing a double-breasted suit. In 1957 the police arrested George Metesky, an unmarried middle-aged man of Lithuanian descent who lived with two unmarried sisters. When arrested, he was wearing a bathrobe, but he changed into a double-breasted suit. He explained “F.P.” stood for “Fair Play”; he had tuberculosis, supposedly contracted from furnace fumes from an industrial accident in his former job at Consolidated Edison. The Metesky case has always been used as a textbook example for the success of criminal profiling; Smithsonian accepts the story uncritically. I wonder. Most of Brussel’s “predictions” are vague enough that they could be adjusted to fit almost anybody, plus it’s not established which of the predictions were recorded at the time Brussels made them; it’s possibly some were retroactively “adjusted”.
Life on the Edge
A tour of the Mistaken Point Ecological Reserve, in Newfoundland, one of the few places where Ediacaran fossils can be easily examined pi]in situ[/i]. “Easily” is relative; it’s not all that easy to get to Newfoundland, once there it’s not all that easy to get to Portugal Cove South, the nearest town (population 100) to the site, and once at Portugal Cove South you have to pick up an official guide at the Edge of Avalon Interpretive Center, drive to the end of a gravel road, hike several miles, and replace your shoes with protective cotton booties before you can step on the two beds that are open for public examination. And of course you can’t collect anything. But you do get to see Ediacaran thingies in place.

Science 17 March 2017
News
Canada weighs genetic privacy law
The Genetic Nondiscrimination Act would impose fines of up to US$740k and prison terms up to 5 years for anyone who requires Canadians to undergo a genetic test or to disclose test results to obtain insurance or enter into a legal or business relationship. The short note comments the Justin Trudeau administration opposed the bill but it still passed 222 to 60. The note speculates that the wording of the bill might be taken to prohibit genetic testing even in custody or adoption cases; if this is the case U suspect the Law of Unintended Consequences will strike with a vengeance.
Research
Building Archean cratons from Hadean mafic crust
Probably need a few definitions here. “Hadean” and “Archean” are eons; eons are the largest divisions of geological time; the current eon is the Phanerozoic, which is everything from the start of the Cambrian to now. The International Commission on Stratigraphy defines the Hadean as everything from the creation of the Earth – currently estimated as 4.3 Gya but subject to change as more data comes in, to 4 Gya – i.e., the first 300 My of Earth history. Note that the beginnings and ends of geological time periods are normally defined by an event – and extinction, the last appearance of some species, etc. – while the end of the Hadean is a set time. It’s generally assumed that conditions in the Hadean were pretty chaotic, as asteroids hit the planet and the surface kept rearranging itself. “Archean” is the next eon after the Hadean. “Cratons” are the hearts of continents; in the Phanerozoic these are large areas of granitic rocks; the may be covered by sedimentary rocks in places and have various “terranes” pasted to the edges by plate tectonics. “Mafic” rocks contain a lot of manganese and iron, usually in the form of minerals like pyroxene and olivine; they are usually dark colored, and relatively heavy. The opposite of mafic is variously called sialic (for silicon and aluminum), felsic, or granitic. Modern (meaning post-Archean here) continental crust, i.e. the stuff that makes up cratons, is granitic, because it “floats” on the heavier rock below (it’s actually a lot more complicated than that but “floats” is good enough for now). Modern oceanic crust is normally basalt in its many variants. Thus when the article title mentions “Archean cratons” formed from “Hadean mafic crust” that’s really very different from anything going on now; when you find mafic rocks at the surface it’s because something – plate tectonics or volcanism – brought them up from their usual haunts below. So that finally brings us to the gist of the article; the authors studied the ratio between Nd-142 and Nd-143. Neodymium-142 is only derived as a decay product of samarium-146, and samarium-146 has a half-life of 103My. Since samarium-146 was only around for a relatively short time after the Earth condensed from the solar nebula, any neodymium-142 must either come from very ancient rocks, or rocks formed by reworking those ancient rocks. What the authors have are some Archaean felsic or granitic (i.e., crustal or cratonic) rocks along the northeast coast of Hudson Bay that show Nd-142 to Nd-143 ratios characteristic of earlier Hadean mafic rocks, and which are therefore inferred to be derived from reworking of such rocks

Science 17 February 2017
News
USDA sued on animal data
This made the MSM; the USDA has a website documenting its inspections of research laboratories that use animals. On 3 February the website was scrubbed, removing inspection reports, NOVs, etc. Animal rights groups immediately sued; the USDA responded that it had removed the data due to privacy concerns. I am of mixed feelings; I’m all in favor of transparency in government, but in this case the USDA has a point. The website identified researchers whether they were charged with a violation or not, thus exposing them to “animal rights” terrorists. The activists filing suit countered that the USDA could have published data with individual names redacted; the USDA countercountered by noting that once an institution was identified it’s fairly easy to identify people involved.

Science 3 February 2017
Special Section
The pulse of the people
From a special issue on scientific predictions, this article discusses what went wrong in predictions of the 2016 election. The article compares the New York Times professional prediction, initially picking Hillary Clinton with an 85% percent chance of winning, with an Internet-based freelance group – which was wrong too, although not by as much (55% chance for Ms. Clinton). The article makes an observation noted before – the decline in landline phone service makes it harder to get representative samples, and data from the Internet – from Twitter, for example – is harder to interpret. In hindsight, the internet pollsters found Trump voters were much less likely to mention the fact on the Web.

Journal of Paleontology n2 2017
Micropaleontology of the Mesoproterozoic Roper Group, Australia, and implications for early eukaryotic evolution
More Proterozoic fossils. When I started my it was a given that there were no fossils in the Proterozoic; now more and more of them show up. Not sure if this is due to people looking for them in places where nobody had bothered to look before, or if now preparation techniques find them. Probably both. At any rate, the Roper Group is mostly siltstones, with some interbedded sandstone and limestone. It’s 1400-1500 Mya, based in zircon ages. The fossils shown in the accompanying photographs are certainly the remains of single-celled organisms; the eukaryote designation applied to some of them is based on cell wall complexity. Interestingly, there’s enough data to assign some types to near-shore environments, some to distal shelf below the wave zone, and some to deeper basins.

The University of Chicago Magazine Spring 2017
The prison reformer’s dilemma
The article profiles UofC alumnus John Pfaff and author of Locked In, who has a law degree and a PhD in economics, and who studies prison reform. Pfaff notes the “standard story” is US prisons are overfilled because of non-violent offenses, like drug possession; however his statistics show that about 50% of prison sentences are for violent crimes. The article mentions mandatory sentencing and for-profit prisons are contributing to the “standard story”, but Pfaff notes the actual dominant factor is increasing prosecutions; in the time period he studied for his book, 1994-2008, the number of crime reports and the number of arrests fell nationally but the number of felony prosecutions increased. He therefore suggests the problem is an increase in prosecutions. He notes that everybody “left, right and center” agrees that violent crime requires tough sentencing but suggests perhaps not enough effort is put into preventing violent crime in the first place. His suggestion for prosecutors is “prosecution guidelines”, similar to judge’s sentencing guidelines, intending to insure that offenders are treated equally. The article is interesting; I’ll have to read Pfaff’s book. I note the suggestion of private prisons as contributing to incarceration is gratuitous; after the mention, nothing further is said about them (to be fair this seems to be a comment by Pfaff’s interviewer, not Pfaff himself). I wonder if Pfaff’s book says anything about “market forces” working on prosecutors, since he’s an economist?


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 Post subject: Re: from current journals as of 2017 06 14
PostPosted: Thu Jun 15, 2017 8:48 am 
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...however, while male runners compete with both male and female friends, female runners only compete with other females.

:? How does that work? How can males compete with females if females only compete with other females?

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 Post subject: Re: from current journals as of 2017 06 14
PostPosted: Thu Jun 15, 2017 9:30 am 
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Isn't Earth "metahabitable”?

"Researchers claim exercise is socially contagious." I wonder who sponsored this research.

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 Post subject: Re: from current journals as of 2017 06 14
PostPosted: Fri Jun 16, 2017 4:08 pm 
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Quote:
Ebola outbreak
In the Democratic Republic of Congo; nine cases so far

Fortunately, it looks like these 8 cases (confirmed, one still only suspected) where the extent of this outbreak. As of earlier this week, only 8 cases have been confirmed, but four of those died. So it's a lethal strain, but not apparently very transmittable compared to recent strains. Or maybe the response was rapid enough to contain it quickly.

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 Post subject: Re: from current journals as of 2017 06 14
PostPosted: Sat Jul 01, 2017 9:29 pm 
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Vitugglan wrote:
...however, while male runners compete with both male and female friends, female runners only compete with other females.

:? How does that work? How can males compete with females if females only compete with other females?


They are competing by comparing their performance times as shown on social media. Men are interested in doing better than both their male and female friends; women are only interested in doing better than their female friends.


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 Post subject: Re: from current journals as of 2017 06 14
PostPosted: Sun Jul 02, 2017 6:13 am 
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They are competing by comparing their performance times as shown on social media. Men are interested in doing better than both their male and female friends; women are only interested in doing better than their female friends.

Ah. That makes sense, at least from the male perspective. The husband knows how fast (how old, how many recent marathons, pro or amateur, etc.) the males and females who beat his time are.

That over with, did you see the vilification John McEnroe's gotten this week from saying that Serena Williams would rank around 700 in men's tennis? Thing is, McEnroe didn't bring that up all on his own, he was egged on to it by some female NPR interviewer. I guess that's because a movie about Billie Jean King (then 29 years old) and Bobby Riggs (then 55) is coming out soon. Anyway, he's been pilloried. He did say that he would rank around 1200 if he tried to take up a racket on the tour today.

Serena said about the same thing a few years ago, but she didn't mention ranking. Someone else did. Link.

Something about the McEnroe statement, with a snippet of a follow-up interview: link.

Something on the movie, with trailer: link. Ah. Tres cool. The actors are the same ages as the participants were, or just about. :D

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 Post subject: Re: from current journals as of 2017 06 14
PostPosted: Sun Jul 02, 2017 11:10 am 
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My all time favorite tennis opponent was Patricia Jackson, an Amarillo high school senior who was almost Texas State Champion. I was a 14 yo sophomore on the mens' team, but would lose about 6-1 to the top mens player. Pat and I would sometimes play to 12-12 (this was before tie breakers). Also had some good mixed double (my favorite tennis competition). Top female tennis players at that level tended to be very consistent. One could not wait for unforced errors.http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/azcent ... =175463912


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